DaimlerChrysler AG will launch its first fleet of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell passenger cars and commercial vehicles in Europe, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. in 2003.

Mercedes A-Class F-Cell

The vehicles will include 30 Citaro buses and 60 Mercedes-Benz A-Class models.

The buses will be used in 10 major European cities, including Amsterdam; Barcelona; London; Madrid; Reykjavik; Stockholm; Luxembourg; Hamburg, Germany; and Porto, Portugal.

The buses will have to endure a rigorous duty cycle and sustain climates ranging from the heat of the Spanish summer to the Nordic winter.

"Urban bus transportation is the ideal field for practically testing a fuel cell as a vehicle propulsion system," says Eckhard Cordes, DC management board member in charge of commercial vehicles, in a prepared statement.

The hydrogen-powered A-Class models will be dubbed the "F-Cell" and will traverse the roads of Europe, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. The cars feature a unique interior design that offers just as much space as the production A-Class. The vehicles also will be produced under near-standard manufacturing processes.

In the F-Cell, the entire fuel system is accommodated in the sandwich floor of the long-wheelbase A-Class. Its fuel storage tanks supply compressed hydrogen directly to the fuel cell system, giving the F-Cell a cruising range of about 90 miles (145 km). DC says the hydrogen consumption of the F-Cell is equivalent to 56 mpg (4.2L/100 km) in a gasoline-powered vehicle.

The electric motor has an output of about 87 hp. DC says the vehicle accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in about 16 seconds and achieves a top speed of 87 mph (140 km/h).

"The hydrogen-powered F-Cell cars are genuine zero-emission vehicles which have left the research stage and are now going to field testing," says Ferdinand Panik, head of fuel cell development at DC. "With these vehicles, we will become the first manufacturer to put fuel cell cars on the road."